If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a writer and speaker in HR, it’s that there is power in a personal story—which is what you’re about to hear. Age discrimination is topic that is hidden away behind closed doors, but the simple fact is that we are all growing older.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 40 percent of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014. Through 2024 that number, known as a labor force participation rate, is expected to increase fastest for the oldest segments of the population—most notably, people ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older. In contrast, participation rates for most other age groups in the labor force aren’t projected to change much over the 2014–24 decade.
Our aging workforce is growing but our economy is strong, and yet so many people over 40 are experiencing struggles finding a job.
Episode 146: Workplace Elephant: Tackling Age Discrimination with Jo Weech (@JoWeech)
Today, I’m joined by Jo Weech. She’s the Founder of Exemplary Consultants. Jo recently published an article on LinkedIn that has more than 10,000 comments and likes, shining a spotlight on the topic of age discrimination in the hiring process. Jo courageously shares her personal story and it is helping others find the courage to share their own experience with age discrimination.
It’s a common challenge for the over 40 workforce. Companies are automatically declining interviews or moving forward with valuable qualified candidates simply because they are too old for their culture, or they don’t believe they have a long-term career path to contribute to the organization. Jo shares that organizations need to make changes in their cultures and hiring processes. She says that this starts from the top down. Companies need to change their culture and be more inclusive of all types of workers. This isn’t just an EEOC protected class issue. It’s a societal and cultural issue that is being brought to light.
What We Need to Do to Eliminate Age Bias
Jo shares that in order to make the change, organizations need to require inclusion at all levels of the organization and should be measuring diversity outreach and engagement like they do other recruiting metrics. She also says that outside partners and vendors, such as staffing agencies, need to be held accountable. They are also part of the problem, as many companies believe they can sidestep employment and discrimination laws by using a third party for their hiring and candidate selection.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate the impact of a candidate experience is tying it directly to a sales or revenue number that resonates with senior leadership. This is exactly what Virgin Media did in 2017. They tied over $5 million in lost revenue to age bias, finding that nearly 6%, or 123,0000, of their job candidates canceled their subscriptions with Virgin after the hiring process. The average subscription was $60, resulting in a loss of $5,400,0000 a year. This number helped moved the needle in terms of candidate experience and effective recruiting processes. Jo believes that companies need to look at age discrimination as not just hurting them when it comes to discrimination and subsequent legal fees, but also in lost revenue.
Job Search Tips for Candidates Over 40
The reality is that we are all getting older and chances are we will all be over 40 and in the market for a new job opportunity. For those who are over 40 and looking for work, Jo shares that candidates should decide what they want to do for an organization, be direct and specific about the job they want, and highlight their skills and experiences accordingly. She also urges job candidates to be resilient and never give up.
I love Jo’s willingness to share her own personal story, igniting conversation about ageism and discrimination. It’s up to us to speak up and drive inclusion in our workplaces. I also love her suggestion to measure diversity outreach and hiring metrics instead of simply focusing on recruiting metrics like number of calls or other other outreach efforts.
We’re not getting any younger. It’s up to us to push back, drive conversations, and educate business leaders on the value that workplace inclusion brings.
Connect with Jo Weech.
- Over 40 and Interviewing? Have These Things Happened to You? ~ Jo’s article on LinkedIn
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*A special thank you to my production team at Total Picture Radio.